Rain Falls, Kaze Blows

 Typhoon 24

The rain had started, as promised, the Typhoon is here. It has been raining steady all day. Not the little wimpy rain that you can not hear. This has been serious rainfall. I have enjoyed it. The rain, I always find calming when I am inside dry and warm. I have to add that since I have been out in Typhoons, on the water, soaked to the bone!, NO NO NO fun!

I digress…

The rain has been steady all day. I have been inside, lazy in some ways. Listening, remembering other places and times. Mostly playing my Shakuhachis, watching Zato-ichi and listening to the rain. I has been nice. The storm will be past in time for me to go to work tomorrow, Good, we need the money… sad, because I do not like the work. I do not hate it, but I do not like it. I am grateful for it though without question. Things are very slow at the boatyard, I am totally only on call for work. Having the silver center job is a blessing. That will be ending for the winter soon, then it will be ready tight. I am already making cut back on my travel and expensives. The unpleasant part of riding the life waves, with no money.

Things are tight, but we live simple and can live simpler when need to. Things would even more challenging if we were in the States. I think about that sometimes, sometimes too much. All that was lost to get here, and the real life that is here not the facebook one. 4.5 yrs into this, I still feel it is good (better) to be in Japan. Even mission-less. Yet, being the mission is to find the mission, or understand the mission. I am not mission-less, I am being empty, receptive, but not a void. Perhaps the Kyudo term of “Tsumeai” – Uniting the firming points of the body, is a better analogy…or wu wei…or just tripp’n.

Anyway just rainy day thoughts between the notes and the drops…

Advertisements

Chan, Music and Food: Taiwan / 1


Chan, Music and Food: The Taiwan tour, pt 1

 
When I became involved with the Heart Chan group many of the members were from Taiwan. The “master” was based there. I had wanted to visit on my way to Japan. That did not happen. Once in Japan I became involved with another Chan /Zen teacher who was also in Taiwan. He made a visit to Japan where we met and he said Taiwan has a lot of vegetarians, and since it was only a couple of hours by plane I should go visit. It stuck on my mind. Later I met a musician at a club here in Japan who was also visiting from Taiwan. At some point I mention to My wife I wanted to visit. She had heard the food was good in Taiwan and was also interested. For me it was more about visiting my Chan bases and eating. I had hoped there was some Kung Fu family there but that was not so. There was also a large Kyudo group there in Taiwan, however for this time around my focus was Chan and Food. My wife made some arrangements and found us a special deal on a flight, along with some points she had on her card, we ended up with a great deal for a short vacation. So off we went.
 
I contacted my Chan groups and arrangements were made for me to meet with some members. I contacted my musician friend I met here in Japan and arrangement were made to hook up there in Taiwan as well. He was also a vegetarian so suggested several places to eat. Also he found a place were we could go Play some music. Things were looking good.
 
Day one arriving, we had an easy flight over and made our way to the hotel. We were able to make a early check in and then headed over to a restaurant to meet up with my music friend and his friend. He was treating us to afternoon tea at a very popular vegetarian cafe. So popular that without reservations you could not get in!
The place was very nice and we had a nice afternoon lunch. It was great to be able to pick anything on the menu.
We had a relaxing and pleasant visit with him and his friend who is a piano teacher. After tea LZ and I went back to the hotel to relax for the evening. We had gotten up early for our flight, so a break was good, and I had an early meeting set up with my Chan Teacher.
 
The next morning I was up and away early. i needed to met my Shifu at 9:00. I had to get to the meet spot via train and it was a ways off. I mostly did ok with the travel. I was about 30 min late even though I left with plenty of time. I checked with one guy about which train to ride and he sent me on an opposite direction going train. As most of the people I encounter during my stay where helpful and nice. I am going to keep the thought that he just man a mistake and was not being a jerk, even though he looked like a train station official.
 
 
No harm done, shifu waited for me until I arrived. Then we sent off for my next adventure. We were going to what is called Dharma Drum Mountain. It was on the other side of the mountain from us. So it was going to be a long ride, it took about 1-1.5 Hrs. Yeah long, over side of the mountain. I was told there is another move direct route , but it takes longer. So we went up one side of the mountain and down the other. Lots and lots of curves. Shifu said he does not drive this way during the fall and winter usually due to the fog. We were in luck the weather was good, excellent in fact. The Force was with me.
 
The monastery was huge. Dharma Drum Mountain complex was fair new. Just completed a few years before the “master” my teacher’s teacher passed away. His name was Sheng Yen. We drove into the parking lot them got a shuttle up to the entrance. Shifu showed me around, he spoke a few words to the staff as we entered. They all bowed and us the go as you wish hand motion. This was noticeable to me, as everyone else was with a group. I found out just how much “clout” my Shifu carried. I was told while we walked around and he explained stuff that he was going to arrange for me to meet a “ranking” monk and hopefully if he was back a certain Abbot. Wow, I am thinking. So I got a tour of the main building, gallery, give some history, shown some notable places, etc. 
After our walk about and visit with the Monk, we followed the crowd which was heading to large hall. There was to be a lunch served. That day there was a large ordination ceremony for some new monks and nuns. This was also effected be able to visit certain area which were on use due to the event. So will followed the crowd an after speaking with a group of monks at the door we were invited in for lunch. There were maybe 100-150 people many more, all Chinese except me. The only foreigner. No one openly stared like some would in Japan , with that size of crowd. The lady i sat next too was helpful , she asked about my speaking Chinese, I said very little. So she speak mostly to Shifu about if I wanted, needed something. Shifu explained things to me about the huge spread of vegetarian food. basically, when it was our table’s turn, go up get whatever I wanted put it into the single bowl I would get at the table. A huge spread of food, I could eat everything, I passed on the mushroom stuff though. I did not make a pig of myself even with the rest. I filled up one bowl, like the size of one’s very loosely cupped hands. One could go back for second if wanted, and there were things I did not get, like soup choice and desserts. I showed restraint. Amituofu. 
 
After lunch we walked out and Shifu spotted the Abbot. They spoke a bit, the Abbot spoke a bit with me in English, surprising me. He could meet with me but not until after 3:00. That was a small bummer as I had to leave by 3:00 in order to get back to the hotel. We were changing to another via LZ’s master plan. Oh well, that part was not meant to be, but I was cool with it as I was not expecting it anyway.
 
Next we made our way down to the book store, I looked around at this and that. There was a Tibetan Monk there looking around also. I had seen him down in the gallery, he had asked Shifu a question about some pictures there. He spoke in English. This monk asks me where are you from? I say Osaka, it was a bit surprised. I asked where are you from, your English is good. Tibet he says, but I have lived and still live in the states. After a few back and forth it turn our he has a temple (one of several ) in California. The main one where he is located is in Alameda, the city we moved from upon leaving Ca. I knew just where his temple is when he told me. Big shock, we spoke just a little more then parted.
 
Shifu and I then made our way back to the car. There was a big crowd at the bus loading and a small vehicle for transport. We opted to walk down the hill. The weather was good, it was down hill, and not far, way not. Off we went. I got to ask a couple of Buddhist type questions and enjoy the greenery and creek we passed. 
 
Shifu said he was now going to take me to the location of the Dharma Drum’s first temple, then takes me to the train station. Off we went, back over the mountain…
 
When we arrived at the next place I was quite surprised. I was expecting an old small temple. Wrong, here was another new temple, a monastery. This looked like a modern university or Art Museum. I was told this is the site of the old temple, it indeed was a tiny old building.
This new place was …well new. This was right in the city, I think I heard headquarters, but the other place is more I am guessing the dorm, museum, as well. I guess ?? Anyway you can see from the picture.  
 
I was dropped off at the train station after I was shown around. We did not go inside I just checkout the main outside area. From the it was just a short ride to the train station, on the way now being in real traffic, i notice just how many motor scooters there are. Very few bicycles , a lot, a lot of motor scooters.
 
 
That night I agreed to go with LZ to a choice of her’s. A night market. basically a certain street(s) with mobile venders. That roll up and go home. There are also some fixed stores there as well. So a mix of shopping, plus stall cooks and local foods.
 
We walk the aisles, a lot of people also out and about. It took a while I but I found some vegetarian food. I was not sure about it at first, but I went for it…it was good good good. A Buddhist run stall I find out later as I am checking out my surroundings.
After that LZ wanted dessert. She found what she wanted i. The Taiwan version of shaved ice, or snow cone. She had been wanting that. It took a while with my broken Chinese, English, Japanese to explain to everyone what was wanted. Finally we sat and ate, yum yum yum.
 
Afterward it was back to the hotel to chill. The next day I was supposed to meet up with another Chan-mate, from my first group. However, I been slowly growing sicker during the evening. By the time I was at the hotel and could not turn the a/c down I was sick and a mess by the time I went to bed. I ended up canceling the meeting for the next day. I figured rest was a better plan…
 
To be con’t.
 

World Naked gardening day

NNGD…

 
It is said that working in dirt, feeling it, helps cure depression. I can see how that would happen. There is a certain feeling that comes from working with clay, doing ceramics, bring something to life from dirt. Gardening is bring something to life from dirt. I call it the God complex, they have I am sure other names. Anywho, yeah, doing gardening is therapeutic, very Zen active mediation kind of thing, Kyudo, Tai Chi, shakuhachi, kind of Meditation. Other faces of Chan. I heard one of my Chan Shifu recently say that, along with every day life is Chan, Chan is everyday life.
 
So my Chan gardening meditation project, spring session has started. I thought it would be a one day project but it has turned into three. It is a good golden week project. I will be working with reduced hours for a while, so on another level it is good to be planting food. Helps to eat fresh, save money, eat healthy. I do not have enough space to really be serious about growing. However herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, teas, can be grown easy and enough to be worth the effort as harvested.
 
It took me travels to three places for soil, food, misc. It was a large undertaking.
I am putting more effort into the garden this year. Last year was weak, very weak. The first year was better. This year I am adding more organic fertilizer, but of a different type. We’ll see if that makes a difference. I am also setting up a computer sheet, showing what was planted where, and what date. I will not rely on guessing what was growing. I tried labels, but they come off, get wet, something. This is a better idea…so far.
This time I have a chart with pictures as well. This way I can recall the seed. Don’t know if I can find these again, i got them from a place in northern Ca called the seed bank. It is an old bank changed to a retail seed store. I have my oldest in contact still friend living in the same town, so there is a chance of a repurchase. God be willing and the creek don’t rise.
 
I finished up the planting yesterday. It was a three day task. The downer of two of those day was my trip to the dentist. First time in many years. I need work. 😦 Three shots on day one! My mouth was a wreak trying to take a Shakuhachi class afterward. I also ended up chew my cheek flesh a bit, when eating and not being able to feel. It made the evening not too pleasant.
 
On the third day a cold struck ! Maybe from the dentist…the chill change in the weather, stress from being in the chair, holding on for dear life. Actually, I started thinking about Kyudo, if I can remain relaxed while this guy is digging in my mouth, I can easy stay relaxed when at Shinsa. Although, being relaxed at shinsa is not my issue, hitting is….I digress
 
So yeah the third day. I heard that May 2nd is World Naked Gardening day. I thought, wow, perfect timing. As I am finishing up today. So I joined in the celebration. I took a couple of photos, because you know the saying, if there is no pictures, it never happened.
 
So the first picture, I could not find my tripod, so I took it while holding the camera.
 
 
I was called away afterward so I could not get back to working until after the dentist, and my shakuhachi class via skype from Chicago. That is kind of different iznnit! Lesson from Chicago on a Japanese instrument, while I am in Japan. I am learning one certain song that is why. I need this in order to get the Komuso experience …coming soon. Oops , digression, the picture, yeah, so I got back out to finish up, I found my trip so I was able to get a full shot, it was a little dark though. Oh, well…
 

I am looking for a good harvest this year. I have some ideas in place that I have been thinking on from the last couple of plantings. The practice is evolving.
_/|\_

Pilgramage – Kamakura

Engaku-ji

 

 
I had been looking forward to this for a while . Even though my original hope was to be able to shoot there were dashed. It still had the making of an interesting trip. The agenda was, watch Kyudo, visit the temple, go to another temple to see the Great Buddha.
 
We catch a late bus out of Osaka. It was some 9-10 hrs ride. The bus trip was smooth, another still I /we were unable to sleep much. Me less than LZ , much less. The seats were uncomfortable, space was cramped. I watch a movie on my Ipad, “Logan”, Xcellent flick. Then tried to sleep.
 
Finally we arrived in Yokohama and had to wait for something or another, plus grab some breakfast. Finally we got the train we wanted, and off we went. Dropped off our bags in a coin locker and went to the fist temple. Engakuji a old Zen temple, were the Kyudojo was. We had no idea if the dojo was going to be open or when. I was prepared for that. Even if it was closed I could still look at some of the facility somewhat. When we arrived at the gate, which was a surprise to be right almost next to the train stop, they were just opening. We enquired about the dojo. We were pointed to it and told , if the path was unblocked we could go into the grounds. 
 
We made our way over to the area which was just a few steps from the entrance. Luck was with us and the path was un-blocked. There was a grounds person just starting to open it. We asked. Few question and were told the would be practice at 10:00a.m. Currently it was 9:30 or so. We said our thanks and our we’ll be back words. We headed out into the main temple grounds.
 
The grounds were huge, clean. It was a perfect time to visit. The temps were comfortable, it was not crowded, and there were some Sakuras in bloom. They were not in full glory yet but enough to give the sight a nice charm. We walked around checking out misc.buildings. For me interesting. LZ is usually not so into the old temple stuff but she seemed to find these grounds interesting. It was nice pleasant not having the crowds. As we were leaving more people started to show up. It was now 10:00 a.m. So we headed back to the Kyudojo.
 
As we arrived the shooter were just getting warmed up. A few of the older guys were doing some stretching. Another couple or so were getting their equipment together. I watched from outside as we were supposed to do. Aa couple of guys started on the makiwara. I noticed behind them were one or two people doing meditation or praying.
I think meditation, this is a Zen based Kydojo. I walked back and forth to view what I could. Finally I could take no more and asked one the shooters. “Are there different ranks here now? What is the average? Something close to that. I was told there are no ranks, they only do it for personal development. Then I remembered they are not part of the Federation. I was told we could have a seat off in the side yard. We were was ok, to move the barrier and go in the other area. We enter and Got a better view of the shooting area of the dojo.
 
More people started to arrive. Some noticed we were inside the yard and also moved the barrier and came it. I watched for a while, took more pictures from this angle and then we left. I found out later that some of my dojomates, upper ranks had no idea there was a Kyudojo in Kamakura. I was kind of surprised, but since they are not part of the Renmei they go unnoticed by the group.
 
The Great Buddha
 
Our next stop was the Great Buddha. It was only a short trip to the Temple of the Great Buddha. It was now around 11:00 am, the crowds where out. The “fun” quality of the trip diminished with the size of the crowd. Side stepping, dodging, we made our way to the Buddha. My only reason was just for historic value. It was big, I got a few good shots and picked up a few small omeyage. Then we headed back. A few stops were made at a couple of local shops. We had planned on visiting one other temple but changed or minds. Instead opted to go right to lunch. The Thai place LZ had picked was closed. However there was another within walking distance. It was run by real Thais, it was right across from the beach. I was surprised there was such a nice beach there. LZ said it is a famous beach , used as a back drop for many many Movies, TV, etc . The food was ok, so far I have yet to find any Thai as good as the place I was a regular at in Ca.
 
The next stop was our hotel. There we rested and had a great dinner. The room was small but comfortable. I say small because it was picked as a placed for LZ to do a report on. So we could basically write off our trip for the most part. There was a private jacuzzi time. The Jacuzzi over looked the water, it was only so so, to me because the weather was still chilly, so not really enjoyable. However the dinner as I said was good.
 
Yokosuka
 
The next day we visited, long term friends of ours from NorCal. Another mixed couple like us. The husband currently works for the Naval base there at Yokosuka. He took us to a spot that over looked the placed where Admiral Perry first came and threaten the Japanese.
Trade or die! We next went to the Military base and technically went back on American soil, by foot! We had a bit of an issue getting on base, we needed passes, and LZ did not bring a photo ID. It took a while but we were able to get a pass for the day. On base we got a tour, and did some shopping, of food stuff not easy to get in Japan. A gold mine score.
Next to their house for wine and cheese, chatting and laughs. I was given an interview for the website and facebook site, “Black Toyko” .
 
After all that we hustled off to the train/bus for the long trip home. Overall to was fun. It was good to hang out with our friends and kick it like we did in Cal.
It was a long trip but worthwhile in my mind. Even though could not shoot at the Kyudojo, it was still worthwhile to visit the temple and grounds. It was nicer we thought than Kyoto. The Great Buddha was “Meh” but ok to see once. I picked up a small gold plated Buddha statue for my home shrine.
more photos here –> X

World Chan Conference

World Chan conference.

 
I have been doing some study on-line with a teacher from the Chan linage of Sheng Yen. Beishi Guohan is the head teacher and founder in the Cosmos Chan Community. A few months ago Guohan Shifu mentioned that he was coming to Kyoto to see some Zen temples. I offered to help him get to Kyoto. This week he arrived, I was contacted and asked if he could met any Zen Masters or monks. I said, I only know of a couple and only one in my area. I was referring to Yoh Aoki. Even though I have some issues with him as a Zen Master, he still has the credentials, even if not the heart. In my opinion.
 
Moving on…
 
Although pretty much last minute, the arrangements were made. Guohan Shifu, his wife, and myself would go over to the Marina and meet with Aoki “Shacho” (company president). 
 
I was somewhat fretful the night before, I am not big on meeting new people. What will we talk about? Ok well Chan, but meeting with a master, am I suppose to ask some deep questions or something? Slowly slowly slowly I let it go, and just did what I needed to do, rolled with it.
 
I arrived at the agreed place but the Shifu was not there. He had arrived very early, him and his wife were out and about, looking at stuff. I messaged them and we hooked up. It was comfortable meeting him. He is sort of quiet, so I felt somewhat pressed to speak. I asked the general stuff and the three of us chatted comfortably. I really liked his wife, she reminded me of my Kung Fu auntie in Oakland.
When she found out I could speak some Chinese she helped me with a few things. At the end of the day she gave me a Jade, necklace for LZ.
 
One of the things I wanted to ask The shifu, well really the only thing. “What is the meaning of life? “
I have seen this question posted by a Buddhist Meetup group. I had seen this posted in another form by a Muslim, I recall this from my Christian days. Christians say “to bring glory to God”, Muslim: “To know God” ( something like that), my teacher’s answer was,” to know truth”. To me this could all be the same thing. It was not the mind blowing answer, I hoping for, but not a surprising answer. Hmmm perhaps in its simplisty.
 
We made our way over to the Aoki boat yard, where we were greeted and offered tea. There we chat a little before heading out to lunch. It was decided that we would go to the Indian Restaurant we go to was nearby and we could get veggie foods for Shifu and myself. Once there my friend the manager, made both myself and Shifu some thing special. It is good to have a connection.
 
So the world Chan conference began. China, Japan and American representatives 🙂 We had a nice chat about this and that, reasons for starting Chan, temples, masters, etc. At one point Aoki Shacho had to leave there were things to do back at the Boat yard. I found out later there was an interview. Anyway it was fine. I sat with the Shifu and his wife a while longer. Then we left.
 
We walked to the train station and I rode with them to the airport, where they made the connection to return to Kyoto where they were staying. I was invited to come visit them in Taipei. I liked them both. They were both approachable and down to earth. I will be continuing to study with Shifu Gouhan. Perhaps I have found my true Chan teacher…when the student is ready kind of thing. Some fate involved with him coming to Japan, otherwise he would have just been a voice on a internet conference. Too bad he is not a Kung Fu master as well, that would be off the hook…cool!
 
As for going to Taiwan, that could be a very cool thing and affordable for at least one visit. I can visit both my Chan shifus, I can stay at one of the temples for sure and people from the Heart Chan group will take me/us around as family. Also I have I believe a Kung Fu Uncle there who I could visit maybe train a bit with him. I am pretty sure Ling Sisuk sometimes goes to Taiwan for training, he could get me a hookup. I was told there are more and more vegetarians there in Tawain now so a lot of places to eat. I could get a lot of bang for a few days of low spending. Hmmm something to think about. LZ is up for a visit. I would need at least 4 days. One day for Kung Fu training , two days for the Chan temples, sight seeing one day, hmmmm. Ok maybe a week. Maybe we could go together and I can stay a couple of days extra for training. Something to think about anyway.
 
Anyway as far as Chan study, it is good to have a teacher again, someone I respect, I can grow now, I told my Abbott I would continue to train. My Heart Chan Shifu, Wujue Miaotian from Tawain does not speak English and I am not really in touch with the Ca group, it is hard to connect via on-line teachings, with the time factor. I am still connected but my path is different, I am not feeling somethings about that path. The group of Hsu Yun, my teacher there passed away. The group seems to have stalled, I see no future for me with them further. It is as Gouhan Shifu would say, a Karmic connection that has connected me with his group. (PS: Anyone interested in dharma classes free on-line drop me a note). I find it interesting that part of the training that I wanted to do in Japan was Zen, but my training is coming still from the Chinese path, even being in Japan.

吹禅 – Owari desu…yokatta


Whewww, glad that is done…
img_20170219_095336_32863735461_o
I was off, it was to be a full day with Kyudo, stuff, Guitar, and Shakuhachi in hand I head out…
It finally here the day I wanted to get over with.
It felt more like taking a test than doing a recital. I have a good grasp on most of the song, but not all the small parts. It was requested that I should memorize the song not read it. Hmmm, ok. I figured out why I am having trouble memorizing this song. Beside me getting old, so many things with just my playing , then to add memorizing …it is a lot for something that is new. 
 
Anyway, no matter. I had it down enough that only those who knew the song, would know I am not playing it “true”, There were other people there beside shakuhachi students. In fact mostly koto students and shamisen. This is what I was lead to believe…it was mostly right.
 
So, anyway, i wanted this over with that was part of it. It would be my first real playing live. I did play a section at my Ordination , but this was the whole song, in front of Japanese strangers, musicians. The “musicians” is the key in this case…peers.
img_20170219_150920_32834210552_o
 
Also there was the requests from my Sensei to play a couple of other songs with him. One of which I was to sing. I am not sure why I dislike doing that song. That part was not fun , but the other song playing with Sensei was harder, and I did not have the time to practice it. So my guitar work was expected to be poor..It was! Embarrassing to me, maybe they did not care or even notice. I did, Sensei , hmmm, not sure. My timing was there but some notes and cords, where funky (sour) to me.
 
The day started early for me, even though the event was not until 2:00 pm. It was a 90 min train ride about. However since I had a stop to make i left earlier than needed. I was stopping by the Kyudo shop. I wanted my ya fixed. It has been a small thing, but the coloring design has not been right since I got the new Ya. Since the shop was on my way to the recital house it was a perfect time to stop. Finally, I can get that behind me. It is a very small thing , but it irks me everything I use the Ya. I am still attached to the vision of how they are suppose to look. No one cares but me, but it is part of my small joy of if not shooting well, at least looking good whilst shooting bad. 🙂
 
That part of the trip went well. I hope the guy understood !? It will take a month for it to be done. I guess their shop stays pretty busy for custom work. Or something. It took a month for me to get the original set. Hmmm maybe he said a week?! Or well. Not a rush anyway. So just wait, mode engaged. I have my everyday Ya to use anyway and I am not going to shinsa next month. Speaking if which, I went into practice on Sat night expecting quiet and aloneness to practice with my new-to-me winter kimono. Wrong wrong wrong, ran into a a big practice session with several Senseis had to join. Anyway, alway good, to learn something.
 
Yeah, after the Kyudo shop, a quick stop at Subway for a sandwich. That is one of the few things I miss about the states is the mixture of foods I can get. I would love to find a falafel shop. Yummm. Anyway. i got my usual. Flat bread, avo, cheese, all the veggies, with basil sauce. It was good! Then onward to the recital. We were to have a meal afterward but that would not be until 4:30 , it started at 2:00.
img_20170219_121337_32834188442_o
 
I got on the train and headed to the house of the Koto Sensei where the event was to be held. It was almost to where we used to live when we first arrived and stayed with my Mother-in-law. I made it to the home with no problem, by following the map and a little common sense. My Sense had not arrived yet. There was a Sempai of mine their, I had met before. The rest were a bunch people I did not know. But it was ok, they were all pleasant and tried to be helpful to me, with my limited Japanese. Pretty soon , everyone was there , except for my Sensei. He was not late but it was close when he arrived.
img_20170219_142634_32174081563_o
 
Once he was there we started. He was the MC it turns out. So he did the speaking. He started off with a small talk introduction of the players for the day and then began with his first song. I was to be next. Great, following the master!! Another reason to be nervous! Just Great! Ok, my turn. I took my music chart just in case. I put it on the stand , but not right in front of me. Just to the side, I could look over if I needed, but for the most part I would have my eyes closed and just play from memory. If I mess up, I just mess up. I will keep going. One thing I learn from playing so long live, just keep going, the mistake does not really standout until the player makes it so. I would keep rolling, and sure enough I got a part or two mixed up. Only my Sensei and maybe his sempai who was there noticed. Afterward, sensei said I passed, I did well. Most people fail to get notes out. I was able to play through-out. I think I also got an approval from his sempai. Although he did not say so to me, they were talking about me. I would get pulled into parts of it. It seemed positive. So I guess I had Shakuhachi Shinsa of sorts.
img_20170219_155725_32988935075_o
 
The rest of the show was interesting, all traditional Japanese songs. Solo, duo, trio. Cool stuff. No young people in the event, all oldsters like me and older. Sensei told me there is a big event next week, where there are many players semi-pro and pro. I am guessing a mix of ages. Maybe I will go, for some inspiration or something.
 
I am to start a new Honkyoku song, called “Tamuke 手向.”. These are traditional “spiritual” shakuhachi songs. They seem fairly long and complex. Perhaps these are the ones sensei is picking out for me as a teaching path. He says we will be working on this next song of, which the name I do not recall, through the summer and into the fall…
Wow, long time for one song. It does not matter, I have no rush plans on what I learn or pressure to stop. I am just learning and will apply when ready. As for stopping, the universe will determine that. I will continue to play until I can not. Lessons may need to be adjusted due to conditions, but the playing does not stop. 
It just surprised from doing modern western songs. I never really studied classical music in-depth to compare. I will guess there is a mixture like in western music. There is a another honkyoku I am working on to play with the Nara Monk this spring, which I find short and fairly simple after what I have been learning. Which brings me to the thought Sensei is selecting complex works to use as a teaching tool, not so much for the music or to just learn another song. Like in Kung Fu the principal behind the technique is the important part. The soul essence. Understanding that, rather than the physical act at the applied moment is the pearl. Once you own it you can adapt it and needed.
img_20170219_145021_32174084443_o
 
It is kind of nice studying with this shakuhachi sensei he is somewhat of a rebel, besides the greatness of him speaking English. As a rebel he does not give ranks (dans) to his students. That is still a practice in many schools with. A traditional background. One gets a Dan and also pays more with each Dan for classes. I do not really need a Dan, I have no plans to teach.
 
So now onward. New song, new adventure, new area of learning…yosh!
 
.more pix and vid here
 
 
 

Things change…

1960s – As a youth I spent time with my Grandfather, in Virginia. There was a “white high school” and a ” colored high school”, a party line telephone. We had no central heating. Gramps wore “long johns”. I thought dang seriously old Man’s style. It was part of my ” chores’ to get the house heated in the mornings. We had wood stove and kerosene heaters. I would have to walk across the yard to our gas station, open the shop and get the oil container filled up, the back to the house to start the fires …

oil
2017. I can speak with someone on the other side of the world on my phone that I carry in my pocket, there has been a “colored” President, now a new one who is backed by the KKK, we have no central heating in Japan, I am still filling the kerosene cans, and starting the fire,…
The difference… I wear the “long johns”

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 
…And we are off on a new adventure. It will be an interesting time ahead. I am not going to even go into the political stuff. It is way too much and like poopers, everyone has an opinion. Like poopers, some are pretty crappy.
 
As for me…sigh. 
 
The student that I thought was going to be fairly dedicated, quit. He said he was going to just do some basic exercises. I do not understand, what it is with people they want , well they say they want to learn something, but then find out, yes one does have to practice. They quit. Art any art does not just happen, there is no Matrix like pill you can take and suddenly you know Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo, play an instrument, paint, dance whatever. Yeah, life happens but you deal with it and find a pace to study, practice that you can work with and keep on keeping on. 
Then there are the people who sign up to stuff, or even to get info, but do not respond to questions, like, what are your goals in doing this? I am tired and a bit depressed, I will get over it. No matter, I will retain my practice for me as always and not concern myself about passing on any knowledge. It does make me feel I am letting down my Shifu though, but I am sure he understands and has most likely been there. It if is meant to be more, it will be.
img1483614836049_31743680600_o
 
My Kyudo practice status does not help my mood. I thought I was improving, but my last few days of shooting went down hill again. I will not give up, I will not even think of it. However I am developing an attitude of acceptance, this maybe as far as I can go and just shoot to shoot. No thought of Shinsa, pass or fail, just better my form and shoot. That being my only goal, perfection of form. Hit no hit, no matter. Sort of like doing Zazen.
The goal is the journey not the destination sort of thing. It is said when you sit and meditate and your goal is to be enlightened, you move further away from it. Sit, meditate just because you can, not to gain anything. Perfect one’s form, back straight, breath, slow smooth and deep, non-abiding awareness of mind, no goals, no attachments, perhaps other than just sitting, connecting to all that is. Still that in itself is a goal, no?
There are times when meditating, that one disconnects and yet connects to the source. It is the briefest of moments, because when it happens and one because aware of it and thinks, this is it, you disconnect and it is no longer there!

Yet, I see people shoot and hit and hit and hit. However when one just focuses on the hit and do it, they are classified as target whores. They are not just letting it happen, they are focus on making it happen. One has to focus on not focusing to make it happen…headache come from analyzing that thought too much. Still, it is frustrating knowing I shot better before, years before now, yet now after all this training and effort, my shooting sucks. I am walking the “plateau”

img_20161231_174103_31162545004_o

I did the annual 108 arrow shoot at my home dojo. It was interesting… again. I go through sections of the shoot with a different mind-set. Not on purpose, but it just happens. I observe. Starting with attention to every detail. Focus trying to improve my form, because working with the makiwara is all about one’s form not hitting.

img_20161231_151549_31965547736_o

Then counting and shooting to get it done then back to focus on detail, mindfulness, a return to purpose, not just to shoot. It is over all quite the learn experience. Touching on the spiritual meaning of doing it. A stand-on for the 108 strikes of the bell at the Buddhist temple for the 108 “sins”, distractions. However done with arrows instead of a gong.

Shakuhachi, there seems to be a couple of ways to approach playing. Perfection of a sound, a note, the melody, as music does not matter. It is a spiritual tool. Perfection of a musical piece, the musician way. The expression of the song, the melody. Another, the use of the breath. The flute is a tool to controlling the breath, the variables, benefits, associated with that. Sound does not matter, melody does not matter, only the breath, the source of life matters.

20161215_141731_best_31655613885_o

The Shakuhachi is a tool for controlling, developing that. The breath is our connection to the universe. We live because of our breath. God breathed life into the clay and gave us being, it is said. There is yet another side, that of the sound, the music being an offering. This was mentioned to me by the Komuso in Nara. I spoke to him of doing my yearly pilgrimage to some Komuso Zen temple and was told, there os one in Kyoto. I could visit the ground, I could not enter without a teacher, permission, a pass from the teacher something like that. However I could sit in the garden and play, make a “musical offering”. I had that “sense” when I visited the temple in Wakayama last year, and played at the hall entrance, but I did not put it into a named thought of making an offering. Giving something of myself, my breath in to sound as an offering to the Source, to Buddha. Not Buddha as a “god”. But Buddha as the Spirit of life. We do not worship Buddha as a God in Zen. Buddha is an enlighten being, an awaken soul, Buddha is us , we are Buddha, Buddha is everything, yet nothing. Form and formlessness.

wp-1484233947044.jpg 
I am not sure what I am doing these days and sort of frustrated, sort of depressed, sort of goal-less with a sense of time fading away, being on a fruitless journey. The Journey is the fruit and that is all there is until the end? I guess. I do not have that many years left, to figure, work, achieve, what? Maybe 15-20 if lucky or unlucky depend on one’s view-point. WWW 3 happens, the world in left a bed of ash, poison and radiation, doubtful if surviving would be considered lucky.  
 
“The purpose of life is service to others”. Nice thought. I thought I had found my way to do that, several times. I had more of a plan, a dream before coming to Japan. However the path keeps dissolving, and the dream fades away with the tide of life. So it must not be the “right” path. According to the 8 fold Buddhist path, to lessen/reduce suffering, one needs the ” right” job. Easy to say, difficult to do. There is no one “right” for everyone. With limited language skills voluntary work is limited as well. I had thought of free meditation, or Tai Chi classes, those skills I can share. Yet people put little value on things that are free. Perhaps the answer lies with being a faceless Kumoso giving pleasure via the sounds of the Shakuhachi, sharing my life force for donations, which in turn would be given to charity. A faceless service to those who suffer and giving some value to my appointment as a priest and talent as a musician. Well the quest continues, as does the New Year. All I can really do is continue to step, train and keep my heart, mind, spirit open for guidance. That is all any of us can do really. Strive to improve, to take another step, stay linked to the Universe, stay healthy to take that next step and be ready for whatever is on the path.
Happy New Year! Strap in for the ride. May we all do better. _/|\_
.
 

Sliver


Silver…
I have been back with the Silver steady now for several months. Silver is what we of the Silver Center call the place. The Silver Center refers to the workers are all of retirement age, you know Silver haired.
img_20150728_071453
At one time I may have been the youngest, I think that has changed. Still I am treated like the muscle of my group when we are out. It is kind of funny to me. However less funny as my back hurts. I practice mindful lifting when I am working my pitch fork.
img_20150824_084721

Still some places are brutal like when working on the side of a hill, maintain footing, stepping on fresh cut bamboo stumps and move a bunch of dead and cut grass and bush. This time of year there is a break from the struggle, in that the weather is cool and there are no mosquitoes!! That is a blessing to be grateful for, also the temps do not have one swimming in sweat.

 
img_20160921_071557
Anyway the guys, my fellow workers are the backbone of Japan. Blue collar workers, down to earth folks. Different from the Kyudo people or the Yachting people. Although to me they are the same. Just people doing different stuff. I have notice their attitude towards me changed somewhat.
img_20150728_124206
img_20161024_093800
img_20150728_124324
Fortunately not in a bad, way. I was a curiosity before, now it is more like I am one of them. I am sure before me many had not spoken with a gaijin much less one of my hue. Several joke and kid around with me more, some who said nothing or little, now speak, sometime jokingly. It is interesting the noted change, at least I notice. I still stay off to myself during breaks and stuff, because I do not want to have to struggle with understanding, and I am usually a loner anyway. A sociable loner. The language thing though is really my weak spot, I need to develop that more this year. That holds me back from being all that I can be.
 
img_20161114_145325

Sometimes I think what a long strange trip it been to get here from my early life beginnings, in Philly and Virginia. Then there was the West Coast life, so very different. A Southern and Northern version. Now in Japan hanging with the locals a city employee manual laborer. Laughing and sweating together. Some of the guys I really like and the work bonds us.

img_20161207_120029

I have developed calluses at this late age, and my back hurts. However I look at it as continued training and practice. I ride my bike a lot but I do not do much lifting and muscle work, so this is good training. I can be very lazy about strength training, which is important at my age.

img_20161114_145305

 

So the Silver is a double blessing to be grateful about. The even though small money helps us have a life other than basic food and paying rent. Kyudo is costly even without buying stuff, there is transportation and dojo use fees. There is also my Shakuhachi lessons. Not really a lot but still it all adds up, even living a simple life as we do.

Mindfulness training

 

Back to muscle work

 
It had been a while since I had been working for the silver center doing landscape work. They had not called, which was really ok with me, but now things had slowed down with the boating and money was get tighter. LZ called to find out what was up with no calls from them. They said they thought I was busy so did not bother. Hmmm, well whatever. She told them I had time, they said they still needed help and to pick the days I wanted to work. So I am back to the labor job, on Monday and Weds. I figured that was good. Two days a week and a break in between the days. It is good, at least I can depend on them for work for this time of year still at least until year-end. I no longer have any trust in the Yacht company. More on that later.
img_20160921_071557_29717635302_o
 
Monday and Weds I work for them, the Silver center, Tues I do Kyudo, Friday I work at the boat yard. Thursday I can choice to do nothing or something. Plus I have flexibility to switch as needed. Cool. This is a good time of the year to do this outside work. Much cooler. This summer was brutal so I am glad I missed out.
img_20161012_132944_30297678645_o
 
Everyone was pleasant when I came in to work. A few of the old guys I like came over to talk a bit. They said I lost weight, etc, etc. One change I noticed is before I would be the only one doing warmup stretching when I got there. Now they have group warm ups in the morning before going out. One guy I noticed was not really putting any effort into the warm ups. I teased him about it afterward. He laughed and said some things I did not understand , but I got the drift.
img_20161003_120838_30088855535_o
 
As before I am the guy on the rake detail. It is fine I am used to it now. Although I have developed calluses on my hand even through the gloves. I am bummed about that. What is really funny is as I am the youngest, I am the muscle guy for lifting. Little me, I am put on the parts that need some strength to do, loading the truck, pulling a load of grass and such up a hill to the truck. It is kind of funny. I look at it as training, some physical work is good, more so at my age, it is a good thing.
img_20160926_114708_29823873252_o
 
So any way, it is simple work no hidden agendas, I am sure there is some ego thing involved, because people are people and there is the “sempai” thing with the Japanese, meaning the new guy vs the seniors. I am somewhat beyond that being a Gaijin, it is not so much in my face. I get a pass, sort of. But I see it with others.
img_20160921_113350_29717639082_o
 
Anyway, it is a good Zen practice, being in the moment, dealing with only the task at hand. Still my mind wanders and I am constantly bringing it back to rack the leaves, pulls the rope, lift the branches, load the truck, not interesting , not fun, just is work, paid work, and Motion Zen training. Sort of like walking meditation…being fully present in what you are doing.